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Churchill Downs Has Suspended The Trainer Of The Kentucky Derby's Winning Colt

Medina Spirit, ridden by jockey John Velazquez, leads the field to the first turn during the Kentucky Derby on May 1 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. The colt has failed a second drug test following the race.
Sarah Stier
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Getty Images
Medina Spirit, ridden by jockey John Velazquez, leads the field to the first turn during the Kentucky Derby on May 1 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. The colt has failed a second drug test following the race.

Updated June 2, 2021 at 5:18 PM ET

Churchill Downs, the Louisville home of the Kentucky Derby, has suspended horse trainer Bob Baffert after Medina Spirit, the colt that won this year's running of the Derby, failed a second test for banned substances, the company announced Wednesday.

Baffert's suspension is for two years and blocks any trainer affiliated with his stables from entering horses in races operated by Churchill Downs.

Medina Spirit had failed a post-race drug test last month and its Derby victory could be disqualified by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

The colt's second failed test showed the presence of a type of steroid known as betamethasone, said W. Craig Robertson III, an attorney for the horse's owner, in a statement.

The same drug was found in Medina Spirit's first test, which Baffert said was due to a topical ointment called Otomax that had been applied to a skin rash. Baffert said he was not aware the ointment contains betamethasone.

Trainer Bob Baffert watches workouts at Churchill Downs in April in Louisville, Ky., ahead of the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby. Baffert has won seven Kentucky Derby races, a record.
Charlie Riedel / AP
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AP
Trainer Bob Baffert watches workouts at Churchill Downs in April in Louisville, Ky., ahead of the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby. Baffert has won seven Kentucky Derby races, a record.

Robertson said additional testing is underway, including DNA testing, which he said "we expect" will confirm the betamethasone came from the Otomax ointment and not an injection.

The 147th running of the Kentucky Derby, the nation's premier thoroughbred race, took place on May 1. Medina Spirit won an upset victory by a head over runner-up Mandaloun. It was Baffert's seventh victory in the Derby, the most of any trainer.

The results of the colt's drug test were announced May 9. Despite the test, Medina Spirit was permitted to run in the second leg of horse racing's Triple Crown, the 146th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, on May 15. The colt finished third, behind winner Rombauer and second-place Midnight Bourbon.

Should Medina Spirit be disqualified and lose the Kentucky Derby victory, it would be only the third such instance in the long history of the race.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Katkov

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